More Picks and Previews of March Madness...By Mike Duffy
and Andrew Heitner
Greetings to our faithful. We just returned from Overland Park, Kan., the home of the NCAA, where Tom Butters "His Muffin" enlisted the services of your humble scribes to help decide the field of 64. Even with our presence, the Constitution Athletic Conference got hosed and had no teams made the field. Anyway, before heading to the beaches of Tortola where we will be slapping the tanning oil unabashedly on the Babes of the Caribbean, we offer up our NCAA Tourney preview. ...
What is with all the Dicky V bashing? It started with Billy "Fudge" Packer of CBS and has continued with Sports Illustrated and the USA Today. Packer, obviously distraught at losing the number one college color commentator title to the Dickster, stated that he rather have the fans remember that the game on the tube was well played and not who announced it. Packer carries this belief into his job, as he is boring as hell and is a puppet for the Big East, causing fans of other conferences nausea. Meanwhile, Dicky V look alike contests follow Vitale everywhere he goes and the games he broadcasts clean up on the ratings. Packer and the other old folk who run the print media are gonna have to get a grip on the fact that the 18-29 year old age group dictates what is seen on T.V. (due to advertising money opps). This being the case, the 20-year-olds want to see an energetic sportscaster who can speak the talk of the hood and not some crusty old guy who thinks the pill is Geritol. ...
Although it never happened to us during our jaunts down to the beaches of Brazil, after watching the Ultimate Fighting Championship II, we advise all our faithful readers never to pick a fight down in Rio. The winner of this year's contest was a guy named Royce "Say Goodnight" Gracie, who successfully defended his UCF title (yes, he was foolish enough to want to "defend" the crown) against a field of 15 other martial artists. Gracie is only 5'10" and 175 lbs., yet he was able to maim and choke his opponents (including a guy 6'5" 260 lbs.) into submission to claim the $60k prize. Although the event was far more of a sport than initially expected, several participants did get their faces rearranged. Best character: Rich "G-man" Goines, who served as the ring announcer. Dumbest line: announcer Brian Kilemead, "The ring is shaped like an octagon. It has eight sides." Best line: color man Ben Holmes, after one of the fighters had his bell rung, "Orlando's going to be wondering why there's an expiration date on sour cream after that fight. ..."
Can anyone look us in the eye and tell us that Seton Hall deserves to be in the dance over Georgia Tech? If so, we would like to try whatever you are smoking. The Hall was the sixth Big (L)East team to make the tourney, while their were only five from the ACC. This despite the ACC being ranked 2nd in the final RPI (power) rankings and the Big East 4th. The Hall was 8-10 in conference play and beat up on the likes of St. Peter's, Iona, St. Bonaventure, Wagner, and San Diego in their nonconference cream puff schedule. In fact, only one team they played outside the Big East made it to the Dance (Purdue). Tech was also sub-.500 in their conference at 7-9 (there is no way the Hall could have posted this record), yet played Temple (a Tech win), Louisville, and Michigan outside the ACC. If you substitute San Diego and St. Bonnie for the Cardinals and Wolves, Tech would have been 18-10 and assured a spot at the prom. It goes to show that CBS and television still have a small influence on the selections as the New York metro area would not have had a team in the tourney if the Hall wasn't invited. ...
The college basketball guru, Simson, is back and in his baby bottom soft hands lies the answer key for all those office pools out there. As Simson is not fickle like many other sportswriters, he will once again stand by his pre-season selections and call for a Carolina, Arkansas, Louisville, and Purdue Final Four, with the Heels edging the Hogs in the final. Simson had selected Minnesota as his fourth place team, but since they are placed in the same region as the Cards, he replaced the Gophers with another Big Ten team, the Boilermakers. In addition to a preview of his favorites, Simson offers a sleeper team (a sleeper team being defined as a sixth seed or lower) that has the machismo to make it to the Sweet 16 and some TWIB notes on the region. Of course if any of these teams lost yesterday, all bets are off. ...
Favorite: North Carolina. Coach Smith has finally woken up and realized that his freshman studs, Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace, are his meal tickets to Charlotte and not Eric Montross and Brian Reese. These two Diaper Dandies combine the charisma and enthusiasm needed to take the Heels to Charlotte, while Montross and Reese provide the leadership and guidance. Also, with Donald Williams and Derrick Phelps back at full strength, the Heels have their perimeter game intact and will be hard to beat.
Sleeper: Nebraska. Being the Big 8 champ, the Huskers are not a real "sleeper" team, yet they are seeded sixth. Not many experts are giving them a chance against Penn, if you can believe that. Although the Quakers had an outstanding year, they played only one tourney team (Temple) and nearly lost to Harvard. UN-L, with Eric Piatkowski, come in on a roll, having won 6 of their last 7 games (with the loss being a controversial one at Missouri). The team is tourney experienced (4th straight berth), have a classy coach (Danny Nee), and can nail the free throws in a close one (75 percent as a team).
TWIBs: A player to watch is the "Shaq of the MAC," Gary Trent of Ohio. At 6-7, he plays inside and out and is capable of leading the Bobcats to an upset of IU (just ask UConn). UAB's tough defense will give UConn fits, as it will force the Huskies into shooting the rock from outside, something Jim Calhoun's team does not do very well. CBS must be drooling at the thought of an Indiana-Temple second round match up.
Favorite: Purdue. This is the toughest region in the tourney, with the Big Ten (Purdue), Big East (Providence), SEC (Kentucky), and regular season ACC (Duke) champs all here. Even so, Simson likes the Boilermakers to make it through unscathed. Purdue's only losses this season were in conference play, and they have won 21 straight (regular season) nonconf games. This is largely due to the fact that no team can stop Glenn Robinson with one day of preparation. It usually takes a week to devise a strategy that will contain the Big Dog, and even that rarely works (as evident by the 49 he chalked up versus Illinois in the season finale). When Counzo Martin and Matt Waddell are spotting up and drilling the 3s, defenses are forced to expand out to the arc, allowing Glenn to roam free under the iron and look for the hoop.
Sleeper: Michigan State. With the word out in Lansing that Jud Heathcote may be looking for a new job come season's end, the Spartans have been playing inspired ball. They are led by point guard Shawn Respert, a man capable of leading the Spartans into the Sweet 16 in a manner similar to former MSU standout Scott Skiles. The achilles heel of the Spartans is their free throw shooting, and that could pose a problem versus Duke.
TWIBs: Marquette and shot blocking freak Jim McIlvaine also bear watching. The Warriors won the Great Midwest, have a deep bench, board well, and have the capabilities to light up the scoreboard. A Kentucky-Duke rematch down in the Thunder Dome would be played to the hilt by CBS. Tennessee State manchild Carlos Rogers will have a field day against the Rodney Dent-less Kentucky Wildcats.
Favorite: Arkansas. The Razorbacks' loss to Kentucky in the SEC semifinals should benefit this young team. The Hogs should now be refocused and understand that any team can upset them if the relax. The Hogs received a favorable placing as the first and second round games are in Oklahoma City and the Regionals are in Dallas. As evident by the 52 point shellacking of Missouri earlier this year, when sophomore's Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman are on top of their game, the team is scary. The Hogs' only test should come in the Regional finals, but the depth and athleticism of Coach Richardson's club will make them hard to beat. Fans in Charlotte should begin to prepare for "40 minutes of Hell".
Sleeper: Texas. Guard B.J. Tyler has the tools to lead the Horns to Dallas. He can shoot the rock (23 a game), pass the pill (7 assists), and cover the melon (3.2 steals). With the 5-second rule no longer around, Tyler will be able dribble his opponent to sleep, then drive the lane and dish off to open teammates. If teams lay off him, he has the capability to light it up from 3-point land. The Horns play in obscurity down in the Southwest, but Coach Penders has been to the Show before and know what it takes to win. Texas comes in on a roll (they have won 18 of their last 19) and play the tenacious D it takes to win in the tourney.
TWIBs: Tulsa forward Gary Collier will give UCLA all they can handle. Collier had 30 points and 14 boards versus Arkansas this year, and will no doubt be jacked up playing so close to home. An interesting match up looms in the 3rd round, as Eddie Sutton could take his current team (Oklahoma State) into battle against the school whose basketball reputation he helped build (Arkansas). It will be interesting to see how well Jalen Rose puts his latest battle with the cops behind him as he prepares to lead Michigan to their third straight Final Four.
Favorite: Louisville. The West is by far the weakest of the regions, as three of the top four seeds don't figure to even make it to Los Angeles for the Sweet 16. Now that Coach Crum has prepared his team for the rigors of March Madness (late season nonconf games versus UCLA and Temple), it's up to Clifford Rozier, Dwayne Morton, and Greg Minor to bring home the bacon. Although not big on the front line (no player over 6-9), the Cards have enough talent to dominate the inside. Combine that with Denny Crum's know-how of leading teams to the Final Four and you have the favorite for the West.
Sleeper: Cincinnati. The Bearcats are on a roll and are none too pleased at being an eight seed. Damon Flint has taken control of the point position and is playing very well. If LaZelle Durden shoots like he did in the Great Midwest tourney, Coach Huggins team will wind up in Charlotte. Durden's outside game is key, as it opens up the inside for freshman phenom Dontonio Wingfield. The Cats' rugged schedule (nonconf games versus Carolina, Temple, UMass, and Louisville) exposed the young players to pressure filled games and gave them the confidence (if not brashness) needed to make it far.
TWIBs: This could be the swan song for Cal's outstanding duo of Lamond Murray and Jason Kidd. Don't expect them to go quietly. Virginia has the defense to make it to LA, the only question is if they can score. Missouri, Arizona, and Syracuse all have something to prove.
Let's Argue Fan Voting
The results of the Let's Argue fan poll concerning our faithful readers selections for the Final Four are in and read like this:
1. Arkansas (16 votes)
2. UNC (15)
3. Purdue (12)
4. California, Louisville (10)
6. Kentucky, Michigan (7)
8. UConn, Temple, Duke (6)
11. Arizona (3)
12. UMass, Missouri (2)
14. Virginia, Illinois, Wake Forest (1)
From MIT Corporation Nominee David Steel '93: "My Final Four card reads: Illinois vs. Missouri and UConn vs. Purdue. The Big Ten gets two in the Final Four, Illinois coached by Lou "Muppets" Henson and Purdue with Glenn "Has he turned pro yet" Robinson. I guess the weak RPI rating of the CAC once again knocked MIT off of the proverbial bubble." Upon receiving Dr. Steel's selections, your humble scribes desperately tried entering Steel's office pool, but to no avail.
Trivia Question of the Week
What three teams have made it to the Dance 10 years in a row or more (two are gimme's). Send answers, comments, and favorite Spring Break destinations to sports@the-tech. ...
Answer to last week's question: Charles "Lefty" Driessell. Kudos to Jim Reardon and Glenn Moglen who got it right. They win the new game entitled "Missing Parts," created by celebs John Kruk and John Wayne Bobbitt.
Rumblings Around the 'Tute
From Kevin Dahm, G: "I found Dan Moriarty's comments in your last issue interesting. His assessment of Nancy Kerrigan may have been a little harsh, but, hey, tact is overrated. I was rooting for Oksana Baiul myself.
"However, I feel compelled to spar with Moriarty on one thing: Darrell Porter went to St. Louis and has not been heard from since. Not been heard from? The man was only World Series MVP for the Cards in 1982."
Jim Reardon sends: "Maryland's basketball coach before the fall was Charles `Lefty' Driessell. I vividly remember the day the hacking group of which I was a member (the Unauthorized Personnel Space Exploration Team, or UPSET for short) forged press credentials and found our way to the Maryland sidelines during a game vs. Wake Forest in Cole Field House, where we were able to place an `UPSET' sticker on Lefty Driessell's vast forehead. Ah, sweet bird of youth."
Chris Shutts G sent in: "Hey, guys, nice job previewing the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I definitely got a thrill from watching so many guys get their faces smashed in. One thing -- you forgot some dream match ups for UCF III. My choices: Burt-Loni, Mia-Woody, Roseanne Arnold-Tom Arnold (unlimited weight class), Janet Reno-ghost of David Koresh, and Andrew `Dice' Clay-Wellesley Class of 94."